Pianist Daniel Anastasio and cellist Christine Lamprea.
Below: Guitarist Sharon Isbin
(Isbin photo by J. Henry Fair)
Homecoming & other returns
Christine Lamprea, Daniel Anastasio; Sharon Isbin, Pacifica String Quartet
October 18, 2017
Both of San Antonio’s most venerable
presenting organizations opened their
seasons in the past week. The Tuesday
Musical Club has been around since
1901, but its Artist Series is just 95
years old. It opened with a
collaboration by two local products in
the early stages of significant careers,
cellist Christine Lamprea and pianist
Daniel Anastasio, Oct. 10 in Laurel
Heights United Methodist Church.
Then the San Antonio Chamber Music
Society launched its 75th season on
Oct. 15 with a concert in Temple
Beth-El by guitarist Sharon Isbin and
the Pacifica String Quartet.
Ms. Lamprea and Mr. Anastasio
opened their concert with two of the
most important landmarks of the
19th-century repertoire for cello and
piano, Franz Schubert’s “Arpeggione”
Sonata (originally composed for a
cello-guitar hybrid of that name, but
now more often played on cello or
viola) and Johannes Brahms’s Sonata
No. 1 in E minor. The second half
went farther afield, with a wild
contemporary work by the Azerbaijani
composer Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Robert
Schumann’s Five Pieces in Folk Style
and Ms. Lamprea’s own transcriptions
of two popular songs from Colombia,
her parents’ native land. (They met
and married in New York, where
Christine was born; the family moved
to San Antonio when she was 7.)
We have heard Ms. Lamprea twice in
recent years: She and Mr. Anastasio
are both based in New York, but they
performed as a duo for the first time
in 2013 in San Antonio under the
auspices of Musical Bridges Around
the World. The cellist returned last
year to play the world premiere of a
devilishly difficult concerto by Jeffrey
Mumford with the San Antonio
Symphony. In both appearances, she
impressed with her enormous technique, her beautiful limpid tone and, whenever the music allowed, her go-for-broke intensity.
Schubert and Brahms brought out those qualities and others – a superb sense of rhythm, a flexible but unfussy way with phrasing (especially in the heartfelt slow movement of the Schubert), wonderfully nuanced dynamics and tonal colorations. She applied some nicely executed portamento in the Schubert and made sparer use of that effect in Brahms.
Mr. Anastasio was, as always, a model of clarity and considerate partnership – perhaps a shade too considerate in the Brahms finale, where a more assertive sound from the piano would have been warranted.
Ms. Ali-Zadeh’s Habil-Sajagy (in the style of Habil) is quite an adventure for the ears. Composed in 1979, it combines modernist and traditional ideas – the latter drawn from Habil Aliyev, an Azeri master of an Iranian relative of the viol family called the kemancheh. The cello plays chant-like melody of narrow compass, though the tessitura rises steadily from the low, quietly meditative opening to the high, brilliant climax. The piano is prepared with beads on some of the the strings, which are sometimes struck directly with mallets and sometimes played from the keyboard. The resulting sound recalls a sitar at times, and both players are also asked to be percussionist, tapping out quick rhythms on the bodies of their instruments.
The two Colombian songs were Jaime Echavarria’s “Noches de Cartagena,” a tender waltz with echoes of the salon; and Lucho Bermúdez’s fast and furious “Prende la Vela.”
Although the Pacifica String Quartet had top billing in the San Antonio Chamber Music Society concert, it was really Sharon Isbin’s show. She proved a colorist of the first water in several solo works. The variegated hues she elicited from her instrument were astonishing in Enrique Granados’s fragrant Danza española No. 5 (“Andaluza”), originally for piano but transcribed for guitar by Miguel Llobet; she also brought a wonderfully erotic suppleness of tempo to this music. In Francisco Tárrega’s Capricho árabe, her command of both color and timing seemed more like singing than instrumental work.
Ms. Isbin was backed by the full Pacifica String Quartet in Luigi Boccherini’s Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D, which is of interest mainly for the final movement’s flamboyant fandango; and by three Pacificans in Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in D, with Ms. Isbin’s wide color palette used to greatest advantage in the central slow movement. Vivaldi’s original scoring for two violins and continuo was executed by violin (Austin Hartman), viola (Guy Ben-Ziony), and cello (Brandon Vamos).
Only Mr. Vamos and violinist Simin Ganastra remain from the Pacifica contingent that previously visited San Antonio. in 2005 and 2012. Ensemble was a little looser this time, but the refinement and understatement of the original personnel were again in evidence. The quartet was on its own in a warm, animated, ravishingly lovely account of Puccini’s Chrysanthemums and a gemütlich and witty, if restrained, performance of Haydn’s Quartet in G, Op. 76, No. 1.